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How to Create a Messaging App in 2020

lanars_inc profile image Arslan Tayliyev ・11 min read

Instant messaging apps that are just a subtype of social networking apps with limited public features are going to reach significant revenues in 2020. According to the latest statistics, WhatsApp has managed to attract 1.6 billion users, while Facebook Messenger audience is 1.3 users and WeChat has gathered over 1 billion users by the end of the year. Both audience size and engagement rate are essential for apps concerning their profits.

How to make a messaging app in 2020 and is it reasonable? Although you may not hit market leaders, there is room for niche messengers and startups that are focused on upcoming technologies that have not been implemented into Messenger or WeChat app.

While the versatility of chatting apps is turning into their weaknesses, niche tools for communicating between specific users are gaining popularity. The recipe for success is simple: instead of satisfying all users in the world, focus on the needs of those you know well. For example, gamers, truckers, or musicians. Note! You must be sure that these people need to be in constant contact with each other.

Create messengers thoughtfully with our article.

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Is It a Good Idea to Create a Chat App in 2020?

So, basically, what is an instant chat app? A tool that simplifies and speeds up communication between users. It allows them to be available wherever they are (if there is a mobile connection) and exchange text, audio, or video messages, as well as call or videochat each other.

How to make a chat app and why you may need it? People use messaging apps instead of emailing clients, SMS, or calls because of their convenientness. They may use smartphones (not computers) with downloaded chatting apps being at meeting, on the street, or on the Chat apps save users’ time, provide them with chat history, has multiple options of usage (games, payments, or news reading).

If you plan to get your investments back, you need to study instant messengers’ market potential and find out how you could hit your competitors. Don’t panic checking chatting tools market share — most of the mobile owners use more than two messengers daily.

However, to create a chat app you have to offer users something they may not find inside other messengers. In that case, niche messengers like those for dogs lovers, colleagues, or English learning students are demanded. Examples — Troop Messenger and Spark.

It's worth noting that messengers are slowly becoming the major promotional tool for third-party businesses as well as the way how managers and team members can stay in touch. WeChat in China with its multifunctional business features is a good examples. In 2020, large investments in messenger native advertising field could be forecasted. Use the moment and develop instant messenger for a particular audience segment.

Although creating a modern messenger is a difficult and costly task, remember that such a giant of the market as WhatsApp spent zero cash on marketing, PR, and user acquisition since it was founded and now keeps fewer than 150 workers in its team.

Top Features for a Messaging App and Chat App Design

All messenger apps have something in common — they allow users to communicate with each other. At the same time, chat room programming seems to be tricky as you need exclusive features to offer your customers to turn them into loyal ones.

First, you need to find out kicking off your startup is what type of product you’d like to launch. Try to summarize your project idea and list key features you need to integrate into your app. Second, check if your idea is viable or not. Conduct a marketing survey that contains potential customers’ study and competitors’ research. Learn more from your article — How to Start a Startup.

Here, we’d like to arm you with features that are both basic and advanced regarding the chat app development field.

Basic functionality

suggested MVP features

  • Signing in
    There are three options of how users may pass the authorization gate of your product — with their phone number, email, and social media account. Most global messengers (WhatsApp, Telegram, and Viber) are phone number-based.

  • Personal profile setting and customization
    Users should have a tool to turn off notifications in case they are busy as well as change profile pictures to express themselves. A good idea is to include blacklisting options and favorite contacts grouping to your app functionality.

  • Messages and group chats
    Information exchange is the core feature of chatting MVP. Texts, audio, photos, and videos are the main forms of content for that exchange. You may apply various technologies to empower the feature including cloud server one.

  • Files exchanges
    Users may like to share files such as electronic tickets, full-sized photos or text documents with your app instead of regular email clients. Allow them to attach files to their messages and create a chat room website that could engage business sector.

  • Contacts import
    Give users the reason why they should use your products showing them their friends and colleagues who also use the tool. Automated social network connections and phone book data export also save users’ time. That is a good idea to provide users with an option to send invites to their friends.

  • Locations
    How to create a messaging app? Users shall have a chance to share their location, send information as for the next meeting point, or show something on the interactive map. For that reason, the app should interact with inbuilt smartphone GPS tools.

  • Secret chats and data encryption

    Secret chats with extra security level based on dynamic data encryption technology and cloud messaging which is a regular way to keep shared data secured are two common approaches to keeping messengers safe from cyber attacks.

  • Push notification
    In the case of messaging app, push notification is not only the way to let users into your app more frequently but a must-have feature. One of the most significant peculiarities of chatting app is that their users are instantly available.

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Advanced features

ideas to scale your messenger

  • Calls with video and audio
    Sure, your audience can use regular mobile networks and other video chat tools to call others. But why not try to keep them inside the application, satisfying all their needs with one convenient product. Mind that video calls require a lot of power. You should not develop these features unless you can’t maintain high-quality communications.

  • Public channels
    You may find this feature inside most of the chatting applications nowadays. To beat competitors and attract those users who can generate content and a new audience for your product, plan the implementation of public channels.

  • Self-destructing stories
    Temporary statuses, which can be presented in the form of text and animation, were originally developed by Snapchat. Today, popular instant messengers have also integrated the feature into their functionality.

  • Chatbots
    Chatbots are a marketing tool, as well as an option for third-party companies to reach out to users through native ads. Users prefer to save time and not spray attention between multiple applications so booking a restaurant table or making purchases with a chatbot seems to be a great option for them.

  • Stickers
    Animation, stickers, pictures — these are all elements of entertainment. Users will receive positive emotions from your application if they get the opportunity from time to time to simply fool around with it.

  • In-app games

    Going to make a messenger and reach high profits? Only a small percentage of the audience play games within chatting mobile apps. At the same time, games are an opportunity to retain the user's attention, show them more advertising, and, therefore, get more profit from cooperation with companies.

Take into consideration that not to lose your budget it is better to start with MVP (minimum viable product) building. MVP development involves only critical features integration and careful feedback studying at the very first stage. We advise you to proceed with basic functionality according to our blog article How to Build an MVP.

Marketing Survey and Platforms

How to create a chat app? As we’ve already written above, your first step is to describe and sum up your product idea and define your budget clearly. It is extremely important not only to list features of your future app but also to come up with the monetization model. Create a project draft that will become your marketing hypotheses.

The next step is to check whether your idea could become demanded and profitable. To do so you need to research the market. The result of marketing research will help you to define your MVP features and form your marketing strategy. Find detailed instructions in our article How to Monetize Your App Idea. There is also one more aspect that will be influenced by a marketing survey — it is a platform solution.

Audience research

How to make a chat application? Find out who could be interested in your product and give a general description of those people. Mind that there might be more than one target group of users. Age, gender, income level, occupation, place of leaving, the family status will help you to understand who you are dealing with. Then, list the needs, fears, tastes, and habits of your audience.

Competitors analysis

Look at your market niche and target audience description and answer the question of what are the strengths and weak points of your competitors. That is also essential to create short major competitors’ profiles for corporate use.

Find out how many users their products have and what sort of marketing they use. Keep your eye on competitors’ corporate image, news, and sites all the time. To create a chat website and app you need to stand out and your task on the Discovery stage is to find the unique advantage of your product.

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Platform solution and technologies

If you know who your target user is, you will easily find out what devices they prefer (Android, iOS, or something else). Gender, education, income rates, and users’ geography will be most important for you as Android and iOS dominate different markets. Learn detail reading our article Android vs iOS: Which Platform to Build Your App for First Is Better.

In brief, while there are more Android users than iOS ones, the iPhone owners tend to spend more on paid apps or in-app purchases. At the same time, Android development is tricky and more expensive compared to iOS.

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Cross-platform development may be also a saving idea for you if your MVP development budget is limited. The approach gives you an opportunity to reach a wider audience without platform restrictions however, its user experience might not be that awesome as the one of the native app.

There are also some advanced chatting app features that could keep your developers perplexed. Although instant calls maintenance, cloud database integration, extra data encryption, and offline cashing may be powered with the help of relatively inexpensive third-party services, that is also less risky to develop custom algorithms and work with your own servers.

Challenges of Building a Chat App

In 2020, you should be up against a competitive environment where your target audience has a wide range of messaging apps to choose from. That’s why it is extremely important to perform high-quality products with unique features from the very launch. Market image building, early metrics study, and emergency tech support are issues you have to keep in mind while building a messaging app.

To help you with developing a tech advanced product which could be considered as user-friendly, we collected points you need to be careful with:

  • Cybersecurity Users won’t be interested in your solution if you are not able to guarantee that their data wouldn’t be stolen or used by third-party companies. Unsecured personal profiles could be also used without the owner’s permission in third-party marketing campaigns. Multistage verification (through email, Facebook, phone number, or other social accounts) with geo checking is the way to avoid risks.

Sharing content-encryption including end-to-end technology and in-house encryption protocol with changing cryptographic keys is one more approach to rise user data security.

  • Everything at once Users are willing to spend Internet time productively and they are long being accustomed to all-in-one solutions. In 2020, a messaging app is not only a tool to exchange small texts, multimedia files, or call each other. WeChat and Facebook Messenger are now tools for peer-to-peer payments like Venmo (more: How Much Does It Cost to Build a Mobile Peer-to-Peer Payment App Like Venmo and Square Cash), gaming platforms, and online marketing tools. And what about social networking features like Messenger’s Stories?

To overcome competitors, upcoming chatting apps should perform as hybrids of a classic social network, a mobile game, and a direct communication instrument, as well as a marketplace and payment terminal.

  • Frequent updates The Internet environment is changeable and unpredictable, and there are a lot of competitors in the app market. So how to make a texting app with a high retention rate and great onboarding user experience that could make your product viral? The problem is, there is no exact answer. Your app needs to be always ahead to keep users engaged and satisfied.

Without thoughtful and regular updates, a brilliant MVP could be completely forgotten by users in a month after being on top for one week. Make sure you’ve got a strong visionary team and resources to make your app better daily.

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How Much Does It Cost to Develop a Messaging App Like WhatsApp?

Although no one will tell you the exact price of your idea implementation without familiarizing themselves with technical documentation and marketing goals, we’d like to provide you with a basic understanding of app pricing. The budget for making video chat app or an all-in product like WhatsApp depends on the following factors:

  • The number and complexity of features, the number of unique screens, databases and mobile in-built features integration
  • App development platform
  • Design requirements
  • Country of development

Check our blog article How much does it cost to make an app to know how each of those points influences app development pricing. Here, we’d like to sum up how much money you need to build a messaging app MVP (with the most common and essential features only).

  • Sign in and personal profile
    from 50 hours

  • Messages and group chats
    from 80 hours

  • Video and audio calls
    from 180 hours

  • Files exchanges
    from 40 hours

  • Location tracking
    from 30 hours

  • Push notification
    from 20 hours

  • Advertisement
    15—30 hours

How to build a messaging app and then monetize it? The easiest way is to sell your audience to brands. To learn more read our article How You Can Monetize Your App Idea.

UX and UI design will take from 90 to 150 hours and back-end development is expected to take 600 hours in total. Note! Hourly estimations for features development were given for one mobile platform.

While the number of hours developers may spend on building features you’d like to have in your app is more or less constant, there are still some concerns as for in-house and outsourcing development. In-house development costs are easy to calculate looking through your constant teammates’ salaries.

Outsourcing development which could be onshore (you outsource tasks in your region), nearshore (neighbor countries), or offshore (faraway definitions) differ.

The general advice is to choose partners with lesser cultural, language, timezone, company size, and working style differences.

For English-speaking clients, the perfect destination for top-notch chatting app development is Ukraine, Poland, and Bulgaria ($25–40 per hour) and countries such as India, Philippines, or Vietnam (from $10) are the cheapest options.

How to make a messaging app for Android or iOS?

Native apps provide users with a better experience and keep the retention rate high. However, well-developed cross-platform apps may also perform a good UI.

In the case of native development, keep in mind that you’ve got to build two apps — for iOS and Android. UI and UX design should be also adopted for each mobile platform. That means you should double the budget.

Do not forget that your product requires marketing and ongoing tech support. Marketing campaigns can have a flexible budget. However, your messenger will have higher chances to succeed if you have a marketer in your team from the very beginning. A marketer should be involved in a market and target audience research as well as MVP feedback analysis.

We recommend increasing the final budget by 10%. Spend the reserved capital on technical support of the application and the first updates.


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